In the old West, arguments may have been settled by a gunfight on Main Street, but in the battle over Southwest forests there is a new kind of showdown - dueling studies. A recent Forest Service report claims that the number of larger trees in the region has decreased little over the last 24 years. The study also finds that the forests are in poor health, due in part to measures to protect endangered species. Those were fighting words for the nonprofit Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, which then wrote its own analysis: Forest Fraud and Forest Health. Using the same data, the group concludes that logging has destroyed old-growth stands: The number of trees greater than 29 inches in diameter dropped by 36 percent between 1962 and 1986.
For a copy of Changes in Southwestern Forests: Stewardship Implications, contact the Forest Service, 517 Gold Ave., S.W., Albuquerque, NM 87102 (505/842-3242). For a copy of Forest Fraud and Forest Health, contact the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, P.O. Box 17839, Tucson, AZ 85731 (520/733-1391).